As he hoisted the rainbow colored flag outside Hollister City Hall, Raymond Anthony Andrade was struck by emotion, owing to the significance of the first-time event he was called to be part of.
In a morning flag raising ceremony on June 28, the city of Hollister marked the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It commemorated a seminal moment in LGBTQ history and resulted from a resolution passed unanimously by the City Council on June 15.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez began the nearly hour-long ceremony by acknowledging the 150 masked individuals gathered in front of City Hall.
“Thanks for wearing facial coverings and practicing social distancing and being part of this very historic day. These days don’t happen without the courage of you all,” he said, before recognizing the role that Councilman Rolan Resendiz played in spearheading the resolution.
Resendiz, who is San Benito County’s first openly gay public official, spoke next.
Like Velazquez, he, too, began by acknowledging the crowd.
“I want to extend my gratitude to all of you for coming out here in the middle of a pandemic to witness this monumental event,” he said. “Thank you for showing our community that Hollister is a place that embraces all people of all different backgrounds.”
Resendiz also recognized Andrade for his local LGBTQ advocacy efforts and his involvement in co-organizing the Black Lives Matter protest in Hollister on June 6, noting that for these reasons the 25 year old gay Hollister resident was chosen to raise the Pride flag.
As the councilman called upon those assembled on Fifth Street to “push for change” and to raise their voices “as loud and proud as the Black women who fought for LGBTQ civil rights at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago today,” a protester circulated among the crowd repeating, “Repent from Sin,” the words scribbled on the green sign he was holding.
“God loves all of His children!,” Resendiz countered, spurring attendees—consisting of LGBTQ community members and their allies—to chant in unison, “Love trumps hate! Love trumps hate ! Love trumps hate!.”
Lifelong Hollister resident and local educator Karyn Garcia joined the chanting, and later told BenitoLink that she was accompanied by her husband and son and that the three were there to “support all community members, especially in this political climate.”
Garcia said she never imagined an event like this taking place in her hometown.
Members of the public were invited to speak after Andrade hoisted the Pride flag.
Several people took the mic, including Tinaya Aguilar of Turlock, who made the 90-minute drive to support her childhood friend Resendiz. Following Aguilar was San Juan Bautista resident Carrie Mansmith-Gutierrez, who urged the mission city to follow Hollister’s lead next year and announced that she and her girlfriend were recently engaged, drawing loud cheers from attendees.
Minutes before Sunday’s event, Andrade told BenitoLink he was “really honored and surprised, but also a little nervous.” He said that LGBTQ visibility is important in a place like Hollister, in light of recent “run of the mill homophobia” that he saw posted on social media ahead of the morning ceremony.
His parents, Mark and Cecilia, watched Andrade steady his emotions while raising the multi-colored flag.
They have been supportive of their son’s sexual orientation since he came out to them while in middle school, and both proudly stand by his political activism.
“Raymond is very passionate about LGBTQ rights, human rights, and equality,” said Mark Andrade, who also grew up in Hollister. ”And we want to be sure we support him.”
Looking at the rainbow flag that he had just raised, Andrade said it was the perfect symbol for his community’s growing visibility, and that he was proud to be the one to take it “higher and higher.”
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